From Salvation Army kettles to reconciling Kmart layaway plans, do-gooding secret Santas have been quite active this holiday season.
According to ABC News, generous secret Santas have been dropping all kinds of loot into Salvation Army swinging kettles, from two gold bars – a 10-gram gold bar worth around $800 and a 5-gram bar worth $310 – in different parts of Kansas City, Mo., to a loose 3/4-carat diamond thought to be worth about $2,000 in a kettle outside a Walmart in Shawnee, Kan. And as NPR reported, a gold South African Krugerrand – worth about $1,700 – appears in a Salvation Army nearly every year outside a Walmart near Gettysburg, Penn. This year was no exception.
Then there’s the generous secret Santa that has returned this year to drop $50,000 in anonymous checks in a Salvation Army kettle in Joplin, Mo. The five checks, each worth $10,000 and written by “Santa,” were wrapped in dollar bills so they wouldn’t tip off the bell ringer to the identity of the donor. This brings “Santa’s” tally to $500,000 over the last eight years.
And while those Salvation Army donations to a lot of good (one of the Santa-themed bell ringers told ABC that the money goes to feeding programs, shelter programs and utilities rental assistance), some secret Santas have found the layaway department at Kmart to be a creative new way to target their donations to families with young kids. Anonymous donors are paying off strangers’ layaway accounts, specifically those containing kids’ toys and clothes. A Fox News story reports that dozens of families have received calls from Kmarts in Nebraska, Michigan, Iowa, Indiana and Montana telling them that their layaway accounts have been nearly paid off (they often pay all but a few dollars or cents so the layaway order stays in the store’s system).
The sad memories of layaways lost prompted at least one good Samaritan to pay off the accounts of five people at an Omaha Kmart. "She told me that when she was younger, her mom used to set up things on layaway at Kmart, but they rarely were able to pay them off because they just didn't have the money for it," Karl Graff, the store's assistant manager, told Fox. He called a woman who had been helped, "and she broke down in tears on the phone with me. She wasn't sure she was going to be able to pay off their layaway and was afraid their kids weren't going to have anything for Christmas."
"To be honest, in retail, it's easy to get cynical about the holidays, because you're kind of grinding it out when everybody else is having family time," Graff said. "It's really encouraging to see this side of Christmas again."
But it’s also a good way to help shoulder the responsibility for needy families at other times of the year, when those swinging kettles aren’t omnipresent. Have a creative idea for anonymously filling a needy pocket – or a great story about how someone helped you? Share it here.